11.1 Love Itself
It is another step now to assert not only that ‘God loves all’ but that God is
Love Itself. This is certainly not an a priori or obvious truth, and it
is most explicit in Christianity.11.1Many
now seem to have gotten the message, and the identification of God with Love is
now one of the central tenets of theism. We therefore adopt
To say that God is Love, is to say that God’s inmost nature is to be loving,
however it may initially appear to us with recalcitrant wills and limited vision.
If God’s inmost nature is Love, then, because he is being itself, that being must
also be Love itself. As discussed in Chapter 9, this Love that
is God is not a mere emotional state of attraction or feeling good but rather a
burning desire to give all of his own to be used by finite beings, for their delight
for a long as possible. It is an unconditional love and is not based on feelings
or emotions. God loves us all because God is love.
The idea that God is Love is not traditionally recognized in philosophical theology.
It was not present in Aristotle’s concept of an Unmoved Mover who kept the world
in motion. Aquinas allows that ‘in God there is Love’, but makes
God’s loving to be unlike ours: to be an act rather than a ‘passion of the appetitive
soul’. Most systematic theology starts by defining God as the omniscient and omnipotent
being, and the connection between such and a God of Love takes a while to construct.
Now, however, the identification of God with Love Itself is taken as one of the
primary postulates of our theism. Pope Benedict XVI published “Deus Caritas Est"
(“God is Love”) in 2005, asserting in its first sentence that “these words .. express
with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith.”